Part III: 2017 Tour review

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A day off in Otley, eating at Stew and Oyster and whatnot.

We’re off to Scotchland! Zooming up the Dales and across the Pennines into wintery Westmorland and the obligatory stop at Tebay Services. Every touring band knows the wonder and welcome.

tebay services

Cutting back across the countryside in who-knows-where of Scotland following the Sat Nav. This is the first tour I’ve used it and it is amazing how all your other navigational senses are snubbed for it. I became blind to the scenery I’d come to know, the familiar roads. Sat Nav was everything!

philip selway and laura moody

Arriving at Kirkcaldy as it darkens. Circling around and then in to the Adam Smith Theatre, where James Yorkston humbly shows me to the backstage, introduces me to Yorkston senior and the other acts assembled (Phil Selway is soundchecking with Laura Moody, and Kathryn Williams and family are lounging around the snack table). Already there are my backing band for tonight. Brilliant team DTB: Seth Bennett on double bass, Lucy Frankel on violin and Rachael Simpson on trumpet (who I now find out did the music for a past addiction of mine, Clay Jam).  Pre-show we all slip off to a local Italian restaurant, the fact that Tomo behaved so well and ate up his pasta was a real blessing, a lovely dinner to ease us into the evening. As for the show, what a nice time it was.  Kath and I sitting at the back marvelling at Laura’s brilliance. My only regret is not recording this set, the gang fitted in so naturally!

Chez Toad w/ Matthew and Neil

We’ve a lovely hotel sorted and a good nights rest is had in readiness for the breakfast included.   Setting us up for a gentle jaunt down to Leith. Stopping off to show the boy the beach and the ships lining up in the estuary. He’s a big stones fan, I mean he’s really into stones right now. Unfortunately, big pebble in hand, he slips in the shingle and bashes it right in his nose, leaving a big scrape. Poor little bear.

Meursault

RM Hubbert

Actually, we swing by Leith but move straight round into Edinburgh to find our hotel. Katrine got a late deal, in an unexpectedly fancy place. They have gifts for Tomo in a made-up cot and very friendly and helpful staff. The cleaners stop to ask whether we would like them to leave some sweets and snacks for Tomo in the room. So it turns out the place doesn’t usually have any rates less than twice what we paid. Lucky! Enough of that. That’s not DIY ethic is it… I want mice running up the wall beside me as I curl up on a mouldy sofa at the student promoter’s friend’s brother’s flat.

I go by myself back out to Leith to get set up at the Happiness Hotel chez Song, by Toad records HQ. The generally good egg and all round sweary gobshite at the helm, Matthew, was overseeing things despite a terrible cold. In this cosy in-house recording studio complete with wood-burning stove my ‘collective’ is Neil Pennycook (Meursault), Lucy Frankel again, as well as a second fiddle player Robyn Dawson (who I didn’t know before tonight and in the hullabaloo forgot her name!), Mario Cruzado, who has been making a lot of video stuff for SbT, and my old pal RM Hubbert. The sound system is very minimal, and creates an intimate atmosphere. The show was really brilliant. A lovely attentive audience and some surprising swells of beauty from the band. Before my set the collaborating band each took to the stage, Neil running off a couple of songs, Hubby playing a couple of pieces, including a rendition of one of my favourites. Emotional stuff. Mario showcases his own songs and Lucy gives us a fiddle tune with accompaniment from Mario, Neil and Robyn. It was also nice to see Johnny Pictish Trail, who was luckily in town that weekend for a show of his own.

Glasgow poster

the front of Hug and Pint

We’re able to have a leisurely breakfast including veggie cooked breakfast and plenty from the ample buffet. What a treat! #sorrynotsorry before heading over to Glasgow. Where we’re able to dump our stuff at the Travelodge and have a leisurely lunch and coffee in town before heading out to the Hug and Pint. Really well treated here! Given tea and vegan asian inspired dinner and generally checked on by lovely staff. Tonight is monday and monday is not a great gig day. Nevertheless I have a good time. Opening the show is a good friend of an old friend of mine,  Robert Sotelo (Andrew Robert Doig) doing his first full band show for his new, critically acclaimed, album, Cusp. A thoroughly nice bunch. I also have Hubby come down to add some flamenco percussive touches. The setting is quite different from the previous night. As I’ve also stolen the Robert Sotelo group for the show too. It actually turned out to work really nicely in a lot of places on this evenings journey. Thank you David, Niall and Gavin for being game. Thanks to Brian for agreeing to put the show on. And on second thoughts I should have taken up the offer to open for Faust the following night, what a missed opportunity! I was too focussed on sticking to my plan.

Notice at Regather

We’re based in Otley for the next bout of shows, giving Tomo some grandma, cousin, aunt, and uncle time. After a couple of days rest, Katrine and I scoot off to Sheffield. Tonight is Friday Night! It was a delight to get to see Regather, and meet Tim, what a great project and place. James Green agreed to come and join in, albeit briefly with a French harmoniflute (!), which did add a nice texture and melodious atmos to a couple of tracks before he sloped off to watch my antics from the audience. Sam Airey opened the show with some lovely electric picking and melancholic songs. The only downside to this whole evening (even drunken heckling added a certain something) was that I think I got Sam’s cold from sharing the microphone. What an error.

Lookin gup in MIMA

the Cumby

The following night we head up to Middlesbrough, and the Middlesbrough Institute for Modern Art. I’m pleased to catch up with Luke Harding, who now runs The Smeltery (plus a few events here), in addition to his award winning Vegetarian restaurant, The Waiting Room, in Eaglescliffe, a few minutes drive away. I know I’m not an easy sell in a town I’ve never played on a cold wintery night, but a small appreciative crowd gather in the cavernous foyer to watch and listen to me bellow into the acoustics and squeal some feedback around. Actually one of the most enjoyable solo shows! Also, the slow food is amazing. I had a delicious veg lasagne! A delightful evening attested to by this kind review.

Waskerley Way

Trundling back on a clear A19/A1 back to our sleeping baby. I’m heading back up this way on Monday to play Newcastle with Neil Turpin. It comes around quickly, we had a nice family sunday dinner round at my Bro’s house – he’s been working on his crackling (whatever that is). My first time to the Cumberland Arms, and the show was probably one of the tightest jams for some time – Neil was on the ball, and I think we did the fastest version of ‘Nature’ I’ve ever done.  The sound guy Ian took some feeds from the desk and we have a brill recording from this night. Will see what I can do with it all…  Opening the night was an aural onslaught from local oddball and nice guy Waskerley Way. The event was summed up in this positive appraisal by the lovely Ben Lowes-Smith.

The last few shows I will sum up in Part 4…

Highlights and farewells, tour summary 2014.

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I’ve managed to organise a tour for the new record which is meant to be ready in September. The collaboration between me and Juice vocal ensemble.

Show one is meant to be End of The Road festival!

All of us can make it! Anna and family are in The New Forest anyway, on holiday, so it all works out perfectly…. Until Anna gets really sick. The Snows have had to go home to York. Were down to two Juice. Nevermind. We have flexibility for accommodating any arrangement of people. And Sarah and Kerry have performed with me a couple of times before when I’ve passed through London. Cut to the Larmer Tree Gardens. I’ve been sleeping in a two man tent I bought that is not even big enough to accommodate me, my head pushes the thing one way and my feet the other, at least the rain is kept outside of it. That is until it drips in. With ample sleep I indulge in on-site breakfasts and lonely strolls. Occasionally familiar faces sit with me but I generally have my thoughts. I’m not performing until Saturday and The Juice pair are not arriving until then either due to other commitments. It’s been nice to catch up with people, Simon, Sofia, Sam, Zoe, James, Kai, Joe, Marissa, Hollie, Cass, Phil, Howard, Dave, Dave, Greg, Sarah, etc. Here is a summary of the show at the tipi tent as part of Mojo festival summary.

A small gathering saw us struggle on Sunday with unplugged set in the woods. Moving under the awning at the dance floor boat area in the woods helped out. During the rest of the day I also play a couple of songs for Line of Best Fit, which, you know, they’ll never use….and for the radio show of Bram Thomas Arnold, Trail Mix, which they all listen to in the Falmouth area. Missing some great bands was a downer. Seeing some great bands was a bonus! Insulting the headliners and some of the audience, great!

A shaky start to the rest of the tour ensues a week later…perhaps, but momentum is realised and accumulating feelings of success gather towards the end of the month of September.

Resuming.

The first meet up with Juice is in Eaglescliffe, near Stockton-on-Tees. I meet Anna in York to drive up to meet Kerry and Sarah from the train. They are already sat with a tea in the Waiting Room Restaurant. It is a nice intimate show to start the tour. People are eating the beautiful vegetarian food, while listening to the performance. I can’t recall the details, I know there was a bottle count and some squeals and a broken microphone. Fuelled with a delicious dessert we drive back to York for the night.

Kerry, Sarah and I train it up to Newcastle. The impressive reading room (library) of the Mining Institute is few seconds from the station and is our setting. Tall stained-glass windows, imposing portraits and shelves of books lining the walls. An industrial history of northern England staring down on us as we present some of my new songs, the songs I’ve done in collaboration with Juice. Themes running through of industrial decline and small town frustration seem slightly fitting. Unfortunately for most of Newcastle, they didn’t come to our show. The few that attended were polite enough to say some kind words about the show. Our show was opened by Nev Clay.

Shaun clears some spaces for us to sleep. We wind down with a chat and a glass of wine.

In the morning Kerry and Sarah dash off back to York for some work with Anna, I remain for the morning. Shaun and I breakfast at the Scrumpy Willow on vegan delights. And proceed to stroll the town, or ‘Toon’ as it’s known. Notably we take in the Laing gallery and luckily the last stop of a touring, Jeremy Deller curated, exhibition on the birth of the industrial working class. All That Is Solid Melts Into Air. Perusing the fascinating and humbling collection, we take in song sheets of worker songs and hit the jukebox of archive voices… darker than a dungeon and damp as the dew. I leave as inspired as I was after seeing Richard Dawson perform.

My turn to dash off.

From York station I’m collected by the Juice ladies. I have luncheon of vegetable pasty and potato wedges, and an earl grey tea. We drive to Sheffield. On the way, Sarah peruses the internet roaming from her phone. A review of the album has been posted. Clunky and shying from brevity. It proceeds to describe each song. Nevertheless positive. The outlook is good. We’ve been told of good pre-sales in Sheffield. Sofia treats us well indeed!

A photographer is there. He is the venue photographer. It had occurred to me that we had no group photos so I got him to take some promo snaps of us. Sitting on an oil can, propped up at the fireplace, sat by a piano, of course. Thanks Duncan.

A stream of people file in. I’m setting up my merchandise. Familiar faces arrive. juice prepare to take the stage. Hey are opening the show with their own set. A full room greets their pieces with appreciation. It’s a fine show.
It turns out that two people were brought here by false information. They leave after I’ve walked the room and placed my cassette player on their table. A very good show indeed. Everyone is boosted by this and looking forward to the rest of the tour…. We now have a few days off. Well I do. Juice have work to do elsewhere. We’re to meet again after I have collected the van. I’m scheduled for a couple of solo shows.

Solo.

A last minute addition is a date in Dublin, with a lovely group of people putting on shows as Young Hearts Run Free presents Golden Factories, as part of Dublin Fringe. Siobhàn had contacted me about playing, and followed up this with a hello at End of the Road festival.

Dublin…. Greeted at Dublin airport, taken to festival office, check into hotel, meet Allan (Town Planners, Milton Keynes) and do an interview, I’ve known Allan for some time so I ramble on into his ’80’s cassette dictaphone. We then meet Mark (Woodpigeon, Calgary), whose flown in from Finland to play this show. We drop his stuff at my hotel for safe keeping and WALK the city for a quite a while. Allan entices us all the way to see a fountain of spurting penisies, which disappointingly are obviously bull rushes. Mark buys underpants.

At the venue… Meet Adrian (Crowley, Dublin), a pleasant chatter and chit. Soundcheck, a long list of acts pass through the stage this evening. Guitarists, fiddlers, passionate singers, Adrian’s spoken word, Roddy Doyle’s devastating story, Mark’s gentle sad songs and loops. The venue lent itself to a fairly sparse looping from me with much off-mic singing into the vaults. Mummified saints are held in the tombs beneath the church. Here be photos. A nightcap of an Irish single malt and I’m done.

From Dublin I fly to Edinburgh. I take the tram into town passing out-of-town science facilities and retail outlets… I’m directly heading to the Electric Circus. Waiting outside the door of which is Rob St. John and Robin Allender. I’ve cajoled them into playing with me in the absence of Juice. It seems all too rushed and I know I’m driving the van away first thing in the morning to get to Leicester via York and Nottingham. What fun!

Nevertheless something great will happen anyhow… Rob has brought a synth, and Robin a trusty guitar. They fill out my night and we have a fun time playing. The small audience seem to enjoy it. A full report was penned here.

So the morning comes and takes me driving south. The A1 all the way to York.

Resume.

Anna jumps in with Imogen, were dropping her off with Anna’s parents before heading to Leicester for the show. Of the other two, only Kerry can make this show, in fact, she’s opening the show too, as You Are Wolf. Among many surprises was turning round to find them both on the floor as if sleeping. Before the show we had a panic then relief as our Magic Teapot promoter had booked hotels at great expense, that we didn’t need, glad he was able to get a last minute refund and not lose as much money on the (not very well attended actually Leicester, disappointing Leistonians don’t know a good thing when it comes to town) show as he could have done. Chat a while with some new fans. Drive back to Keyworth for our kip. It was, although I do say so myself, a really great show.

In the morning we set off for York. Our show is at City Screen Basement. This odd shaped cavern lends itself to a rather uncomfortable show and a polite York audience. I’m not sure what was taken away from it, but some kind people said thanks, maybe other were thinking hard about their decision to come that night. It turned out to lean more towards the comic this time. Again, only Kerry and Anna, and slightly more people than in Leicester. Thanks for Alicia Casper opening for us. And for the lovely food cooked by our host – heavy on the star anise! Disappointingly the night rounded off with Ed Snow’s bike being stolen!

I’m off to Liverpool for another solo show…

Solo again.

It’s interesting, I drive across the pennines and navigate successfully into Liverpool. Did I tell you I’m not using sat nav (or ‘nag’ as it is trying to autocorrect to)? I never have used it, we did used to do this without it. Anyway, I happily drove the wrong way, panicked, backed into a bollard, creating a lovely concave section of bumper. Don’t tell the bizzies!  It was nice to meet some new folk, with his skewed pop tape cassette and organ fun, the multi-faceted artist Chiz Turnross kindly put me up the night and provided lovely conversation and we had a nice veggie breakfast in a pretty nice end of town.  And it was nice to see old familiar faces. Haress is David And Liz, who had me over for their Sin-Eater festival in Shropshire…

The next day is spent in Manchester. It is a day off on Saturday, after hanging out with Nick Mitchell for a while I was encouraged to join in with Nick’s band at an all-dayer. The mistake was drinking beer and trying to compete with the cacophony of many guitars. My voice was not ready for the following night…

Recommenced.

…But soothed by some tea and a hot toddy mid set, Manchester, upstairs at Trof in The Northern Quarter, competing with the music on the stereo (riffing with Beck) proved to be one of the best shows yet. The intimate space seemed to lend itself to a shared warmth with the crowd. Juice surprised me by bringing some people up on stage to sing!

Anna has to leave to get back to York, she’s missing Mondays.

In the morning I’m picking Sarah and Kerry up from travelodge in Salford, to drive to Norwich. After a long drive from Manchester we are delighted by the quaint setting. The downstairs of the Bicycle Shop Cafe, a lovely room. And a lovely show. Not packed by any measure, but a nice space to play in. The delicious food we were served set us up nicely. Despite some difficulty regarding our accommodation for the night we set off for Cardiff rested. Swinging by Stevenage to collect Anna. Collecting a few groceries while we wait. we resume the trip to get to the M25, M4 then Cardiff. Joy Collective’s Will is ready with hotels for us to check into and a dish of hot food when we get to the venue. Feeling very well looked after, all three juice launch into a very cheeky mode during the set. Adjusting my clothes as I sang and swapping shoes and watches. All very surprising. And if you like birds, as I do, you may find this review as lovely as I did. Some of our party had not tried Wetherspoons’s breakfast before. We treated ourselves to such. A large vegetarian set me up right the way past lunch. we commence the short drive to Bristol.

Oh, Forgot to mention Oh Peas! who made the poster and played at this show, and Trust Fund.

Bristol, we are being given accommodation at a friend of a friend, the artist Kathy Hinde. Her bird based and musical installations are something of wonder. I need to investigate her work more. She is away at Ynis hir, on the west coast of wales, preparing an audio visual installation. Their home has been maintained in a kind of old-lady-died-and-never-redecorated-since-the-seventies style, complete with lovely avocado suite. Anyway. Onwards to the show, in the grain barge, the underbelly bar, fuelled with fish pie we have a great set, more wandering and magic. Juice were able to perform a set of theirs first. Brilliant stuff. Favourable reviews here and here.

Oh, I forgot to mention, on our way to Cardiff we heard news of our show with Hubby in Cornwall being pulled due to poor sales and general not knowing what to do. This did give us more than we bargained for in terms of rest days. We zoom up north. The girls use the time working in York, and I with family in Otley. Saturday we are to play Leeds.

Organised in association with Opera North, a contemporary folk type event as part of Recon festival. We are playing alongside James Yorkston. Suitably well treated and given enough cash to have a substantial (if overpriced) curry down Akbars. Some awkwardness and a quiet sound it seems. Sarah fell off a chair! Also, not often seen the need for four sound engineers!

London. Good to see a female sound engineer. Notably better than lots of the guys we’ve dealt with. I know I’ve kind of run out of steam trying to remember what happened during the sets, I think it is best left to others to provide reviews and ruminations. I know that Juice provided lots of additional delight, both sonically and visually. This show is the farewell to Anna, who has to zip up to York for her monday commitment and her lovely family, sad times…

Nottingham and Neil organises a swift transition throughout soundcheck, food and performance. All sublime of course. An odd kind of feeling is provided by the space and setting, I can’t describe it. Nevertheless something happens and I give what I can, Kerry and Sarah give what they can, there is a melancholy heavier than previous sets, a weight brought down by our consciousness that this is the last collaborative show we will do for some time perhaps.

More Farewells. It would be good to resume this collaboration at some point but we have commitments elsewhere.